In the world of powersports, no manufacturer is more closely associated with the automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) than Honda, and for good reason: While the sophisticated technology can be found on a number of high-performance sports cars (including the Acura NSX supercar, TLX performance luxury sedan, ILX compact sport sedan and RLX sport hybrid), Honda is the only company to offer it on motorcycles, ATVs or side-by-sides.
Honda has been an innovator with transmissions since 1958, when the 50cc C100 Super Cub featured an automatic centrifugal clutch that enabled riders to change gears with a foot lever without having to also manually operate a hand lever. The 1963 100cc Juno M80/M85 scooter introduced a clutch-less Badalini-type hydraulic-mechanical transmission, and the 1977 CB750 EARA sport bike debuted Hondamatic, which had two gears and two hydraulically controlled clutches, with a foot lever used to actuate a hydraulic valve to change gears; models using this transmission, including the CB400A and CM400, were extremely popular with customers in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The V-Matic belt-drive system, offered on the 1980 50cc TACT scooter, would become the standard for continuously variable transmissions (CVT), integrating drive and gear-change operations. The Human Friendly Transmission (HFT), offered on the 2008 DN-01 sport cruiser, boasted a compact design that fit in the engine, an improved arrangement for coping with motorcycles’ vehicle-packaging challenges. In addition, Honda offered its push-button-shifting Electric Shift Program technology (ESP) on several ATV models.
DCT, however, was a significant step forward, as it offers the advantages of an automatic transmission without the usual negatives; in fact, one could make a good case for DCT being a manual transmission that shifts automatically. The system uses real gears, and there are no belts or pulleys; instead, it utilizes a pair of clutches (hence the name) riding on a pair of shafts—a hollow outer shaft and a second one that runs inside it. One clutch is assigned to odd-numbered gears (1, 3, 5, 7), the other to even-numbered gears (2, 4, 6). This way, even while one clutch is engaged with the current gear, the next gear is always ready to be immediately engaged when the clutches hand off to one another. The result is smooth, quick gear changes with minimal loss of torque, and an improved overall riding experience.
Honda debuted DCT to the powersports world when the technology was offered on the stunning 2010 VFR1200F sport-touring motorcycle. Successor to the popular Interceptor, the bike was powered by a V4 engine inspired by Honda’s MotoGP project. Clearly, if such a machine came equipped with DCT, the technology wasn't limited to motorcycling neophytes. The following model year, Honda followed up with a second-generation DCT that was lighter and more compact, and it was upgraded again for 2012.
Subsequent years saw Honda’s DCT continue its evolution as it was offered on models including the NC700X and VFR1200X adventure bikes, and the CTX700 touring machine, as well as the futuristic NM4. (Non-U.S. two-wheel DCT models included the Integra scooter and X-ADV adventure scooter.) In 2013, the FourTrax Rancher became the first ATV to be offered with DCT, and it was followed two years later by the FourTrax Foreman Rubicon.
This series of DCT-equipped models firmly established Honda as the DCT leader in the two-wheel world, but it was arguably with the 2016 debut of the CRF1000L Africa Twin—six years after the technology’s powersports unveiling—that the public truly appreciated DCT’s powersports potential. An adventure-touring bike that was developed following a “True Adventure” philosophy, the Africa Twin enjoyed a warm reception from customers, who appreciate the model’s ability to perform capably in applications as diverse as long-distance touring and rugged off-road conditions. The fact that Honda would offer a DCT version of the machine confirmed that the technology’s benefits in a performance application.
The 2018 version of the legendary Gold Wing brought DCT to the touring segment, where the technology proved well-suited to long-haul riding. This version of the technology had seven speeds and a Walking Mode (forward and reverse), as well as fast, smooth, quiet shifting.
Meanwhile, the Africa Twin’s DCT-equipped parallel-twin engine platform was also used in the Pioneer 1000 multipurpose side-by-side, which debuted in 2016, as well as the Talon 1000 sport side-by-side, which hit the market in 2019. These two models remain the only side-by-sides to come with DCT.
Ten years after the powersports debut of DCT, Honda has advanced the technology considerably, and it remains the sole manufacturer to offer it in the category.
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